Introducing President Payton Heins

It is our pleasure to introduce to you Payton Heins, the next President of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance. 


Payton was the unanimous selection of the Executive Search Committee after interviewing two strong finalists for the position. 


She will be joining the NLEA from the Michigan Office of Rural Prosperity (formerly known as the Office of Rural Development) where she worked as the Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives. In that role, her primary responsibility was to work with lawmakers and rural leaders to find policy solutions to increase housing, retain and attract workforce, improve infrastructure, and support economic development.


Our Search Committee observed a solid economic development vocabulary, a strong vision for the organization, and a passion for strengthening rural communities. She is very familiar with the NLEA and attended last May’s Economic Symposium.


Please join us in welcoming her as she begins her role on January 8th, 2024.

Meet Payton

Choose the North: New Webpage!

Choose the North continues to promote Northern Lower Michigan as the premier place for young adults to live, work, and thrive. To support this mission, the brand continues to be active on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook.


This month, a new page on the NLEA’s website has been added to support people looking to learn more about living and working in Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Emmet Counties. Click below to explore the new page and Choose the North’s social media channels.

View New Site

Choose the North is looking for residents of Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Emmet counties to share their unique stories on why they chose to live, work, and play in Northern Michigan. Whether you were drawn here by job opportunities, nature, lakes, or even through family roots, we would love to hear your story!


Interested? Complete this form🔽



https://forms.gle/w69wa5vsd64pcVXU6

NLEA’s RLF Gains Statewide Attention

The NLEA’s new revolving loan fund has gained statewide media coverage following its announcement last month.


The new financing tool for growing and expanding businesses was featured in the Traverse City Record-Eagle, local print and radio media, and statewide public radio. Keep an eye out for future announcements when the loan application process is made public.

20Fathoms Secures Significant Grant

20Fathoms is pleased to announce that the organization has secured two significant grants totaling $7.3 million to support the growth of tech startups and small businesses in Northwest Michigan.


NLEA was part of the successful grant application with 20Fathoms through the Small Business Support Hub program from the MEDC.


“These two grants are a huge win for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and communities in Northwest Michigan,” said Eric Roberts, Executive Director of 20Fathoms. "The investment we’re receiving from both the state and federal level not only validates the work we’ve done, but also shows their trust in our ability to scale the entrepreneurial ecosystem in our part of the state. The entire region will benefit from this funding. Startups are the lifeblood of economic development – they create good jobs and vibrant, innovative communities.”


This new funding will allow 20Fathoms to implement a 3-year strategic growth plan that will significantly expand startup and small business support services to Northwest Michigan. NLEA will partner as a local hub and springboard for outreach and promotion of all program services to local entrepreneurs and small businesses.


Click below to see all of the ways 20Fathoms will be able to use this funding to further impact our communities!

Learn More About Funding

Energy Grants: Apply Now!

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is committed to increasing energy efficiency and reducing Michigan’s reliance on nonrenewable energy sources. These efforts reduce air pollution and help fight climate change. The following grants are open to applicants across Michigan, to large and small public, private, tribal and/or nonprofit organizations. Any organization that is interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy should check their eligibility and take advantage of these funding opportunities, some of which are one-time offerings.


Below are some of the EGLE grants available:


  • $250,000 available to farmers and rural businesses to accelerate renewable energy adoption and increase energy efficiency. Applications close March 3, 2024.
  • $250,000 available to small manufacturers to implement process energy efficiency measures. Applications close March 3, 2024.
  • $150,000 available to local governments, tribal governments, and other public-service entities for energy-related projects. Applications close March 30, 2024.
  • $100,000 available to small businesses for implementing energy efficiency upgrade recommendations following an environmental assessment. Applications close March 3, 2024.
Get More Information

Housing Readiness Incentive Grant Program

MSHDA announced the availability of the their Housing Readiness Incentive Grant Program in early December.


The online application will open on January 16, 2024 and will remain open until funding is fully committed. Applications will be reviewed by MSHDA and awarded as they are received.


This program is only available to local units of government: cities, villages, and townships. Questions about the program should be directed to MSHDA's Office of Housing Strategies at MSHDA-OHS@michigan.gov.

Learn More

State Apprenticeship Expansion 2023 RFP

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has issued a Request for Proposals encouraging organizations that can provide underrepresented Michiganders with access to life-changing career opportunities through the Registered Apprenticeship Program training model to apply for funding from the $5.5 million State Apprenticeship Expansion 2023 grant program.


The grant program will promote diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility by providing funding to expand Registered Apprenticeship opportunities in non-traditional sectors and occupations. It will also promote apprenticeship readiness. The focus of the funding will be to engage those most severely impacted by COVID-19, including women, people of color, individuals with disabilities, English language learners and individuals without a High School Equivalency credential.


Successful respondents to this RFP will establish or expand existing U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Programs and related apprenticeship readiness solutions, including pre-apprenticeship programs, to ensure grant performance targets are achieved.


Priority industries and occupations include:


  • Care Economy (childcare, home care, etc.)
  • Climate and Clean Energy
  • Educational Services (K-12 teachers)
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality
  • Outdoor Recreation
  • Public Sector
  • Supply Chain (logistics, warehouse, transportation and manufacturing, including but not limited to the manufacturing of semi-conductors and biomanufacturing)
  • Technology/Cybersecurity
  • Transportation (electric vehicle/advanced manufacturing)


Proposals will be accepted beginning Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. The application deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. EST. Awards will be announced Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

View Eligibility

MEDC Small Business Survey Needs You

In its ongoing commitment to support and understand the needs of Michigan’s second stage businesses (10+ employees), the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is conducting a confidential, five-minute survey.


Your organization's perspective is invaluable in shaping the future of business support services in Michigan. By participating in this survey, you contribute directly to the resources and assistance that the MEDC will provide to second stage businesses in the coming years.


To participate, simply click on the link below.

2023 MEDC Business Survey

Stay tuned for more details.

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